- Rated R
- Buy the BD
All photos © Universal Pictures
Reviewed by Jason Zingale
hey said it couldn’t be done. That replicating the monumental success of “Borat” was impossible. After all, now that millions of people had seen (or at least heard about) the guerilla film tactics employed to create one of the funniest social commentaries of the last decade, everyone would be expecting it the second time around. And it looks like they were right. Credit to Sacha Baron Cohen for trying, but “Brüno” just isn’t as funny as its predecessor. While there are definitely some funny moments throughout, most of them are bits we’ve seen so many times in the trailer that they don’t pack the same comic punch. You can blame overexposure, but the real problem is that the rest of the movie just isn’t very entertaining.
Cohen once again stars as the title character, an Austrian fashionista whose TV show is cancelled after an incident involving a Velcro suit lands him on the black list for every fashion show from New York to Milan. Desperate to reclaim his former glory, Brüno heads to Los Angeles with his assistant, Lutz (Gustaf Hammarsten), in an attempt to become a celebrity. When his dream of acting is crushed by a particularly funny stint as an extra on the NBC drama “Medium,” Brüno tries everything from launching a new celebrity talk show to making a sex tape with presidential candidate Ron Paul. He even adopts a baby from Africa and flaunts it on a daytime talk show like an accessory.
Eventually, however, Cohen just sort of gives up on the whole celebrity idea (no doubt as a result of Hollywood catching on to his antics) and moves on to a series of vignettes involving Brüno trying to go straight. This includes a lot of the material previously seen in the trailers, like his visit to a National Guard training center and his overnight excursion with a trio of backwoods hunter-types. Unfortunately, while the film uses Brüno’s flamboyant homosexuality as a catalyst for most of the humor, it doesn’t actually serve as any kind of commentary on homophobia in America. There are plenty of moments where Cohen is accosted by his subjects for being gay, but when you’re dealing almost exclusively with people from Alabama, it doesn’t really prove anything.
And that’s ultimately the problem with the film. “Borat” was just as offensive as it was socially relevant. “Brüno” is just flat-out offensive. There’s nothing wrong with that, mind you, but if you’re going to go balls out (no pun intended) and be as controversial as possible, at least be funny in the process. The movie is surprisingly low on laughs, with most of the material coming off as either staged or trying far too hard to shock its audience. Granted, “Brüno” definitely accomplishes the latter (an early scene involving him and his pygmy boyfriend makes the nude wrestling scene from “Borat” look harmless in comparison), but it doesn’t demand the kind of attention that made the last film a culture phenomenon. A grand finale parody of “We Are the World” certainly helps ease the pain, but if you go into “Brüno” expecting “Borat 2,” prepare to be disappointed.
Two-Disc Blu-Ray Review:
As you’d expect from a movie like “Brüno,” the Blu-ray release is jam-packed with over an hour of never-before-seen material. There are alternate versions of the Mexican furniture gag with Pete Rose and La Toya Jackson, a deleted scene where Brüno interviews a white supremacist while not wearing any pants, additional footage from Milan Fashion Week, and much more. Sacha Baron Cohen and director Larry Charles have also recorded a video commentary where they pause the movie at times to discuss certain moments in further detail, and it's actually more entertaining than the film. Rounding out the set is a brief interview with talent agent Lloyd Robinson about his reaction to discovering the truth behind Brüno, as well as the mandatory digital copy.